In class we have talked about the doctrine of the affections, the Baroque philosophy that guided composers and librettists to elicit a strong emotional affect from their listeners with their music and words. This principle manifested in many 17th-century operas (born out of 16th-century madrigals) as composers used music to specifically highlight the meaning of certain words. We have seen this already a few times, from the ascending and descending melodies on the words “ascending” and “descending” in Thomas Weelkes’s “As Vesta Was From Latmos Hill Descending,” to the low pitch on the word “low” or the huge melisma on the word “exalted” in Handel’s “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted.”
For your blog entry, listen to “Tu se morta,” from L’Orfeo by Monteverdi. This expressive recitative (somewhere between a recitative and an aria) is sung by Orpheus upon finding out that his new wife, Euridice, is dead. He resolves that he will go down to the underworld and, using his otherworldly musical abilities, convince the god of the underworld to let her go back with him. This production (from Barcelona in 2002) is more modern and I prefer it to the one I showed you in class. “Tu Se Morta” begins around 8:01 and lasts until 10:30 (you don’t have to watch the rest of the scene, but feel free if you want!):
Even though there are subtitles, you should be sure to read the text so that you know more or less what any word means (if you are having trouble with a specific word, either use google translate or ask me).
In your blog post, address the following points (do not answer as bullet points or a numbered list):
- Cite two examples of text painting in this recitative. Be specific: cite both the word that he sings and what the music does to represent that word.
- Other than text painting, how does Monteverdi musically direct the emotional impact of this song?
- Choose a song from any other genre that you listen to (i.e. not Baroque opera) that uses text painting. Remember, this should be a specific word or phrase whose meaning is illustrated by the music, either instrumental or vocal. Paste the YouTube URL of the song directly into your post with a timestamp to the instance of word painting (to do this, go to “Share” and then click “Start at,” then copy that link–see below).
- Describe this modern instance of word painting. Some questions to consider (you don’t have to answer any/all of these, but they might spur your imagination): Why do you think the artist/composer chose to highlight this word with their music? Is the representation subtle or overt/obvious? Is there humor involved? Does the composer use a sound effect rather than music, and if so, why?
Please submit this with the category “Blog Entry 3” by Friday, no later than 5pm. If you do not correctly select “Blog Entry 3,” then I won’t see it and it won’t count for credit. One way to check this is to go to the blog main page, hover over “Blog Entries” and then select “Blog Entry 3.” You should see your post there.
Here’s an example of how to take a time-stamped video from YouTube:
Find the video and the timing of the spot you want to select:
Select share and click the box that reads “Start at_____.” This will add a time stamp to the end of your URL (you can see it says t=4m23s meaning start at 4:23).
If you want to adjust the time, change the time next to start at and then hit “Tab.” The URL will change accordingly.
In this example, I might say that
An example of text painting is when Jackson Browne has his band play a disco beat, with a “four-on-the-floor” beat and hi-hat cymbals, when he sings the word “Disco.” In this section of the song, he is singing about all the different kinds of music that his band listens to when they are on their tour bus. When he sings “we’ve got country and western,” you can hear a pedal steel guitar, one of the signature timbres of country music. When he sings “R&B,” the beat shifts to an R&B rhythm. In this way, Browne is playing through the different styles of music that he listens to while he is listing them in the song.
Here’s the moment in question: